The Gayle v Watson show

When Australia and the West Indies meet on Friday for their semi-final encounter, all eyes will be firmly on two players, Chris Gayle and Shane Watson.

The story of the tournament for each side has been – lose your boundary biffing beast early, and struggle thereafter. Gayle and Watson are those beastly figures, irreplaceable forces in the shortest form of the game and match winners on their day. To put it bluntly, they put bums on seats.

“The Gayle v Watson showdown” – Coming to Colombo this Friday.

So reliant on their star bashers have Australia and West Indies been this tournament, that when they have failed with the bat, their middle orders have looked suspect and under cooked.

After four man-of-the-match awards in a row for Watson, his first failure with the bat coincided with Australia’s first defeat of the tournament, as he made just 8 during his side’s 32-run loss to Pakistan.

Those four man-of-the-match awards were achieved with scores of: 51, 41no, 72 and 70 as well as bowling figures of: 3/26, 2/29, 3/34 and 2/29.

Gayle too, has similarly had to carry the West Indian hopes of a large total on his broad shoulders. His one real failure with the bat came in their biggest defeat of the tournament, a 9-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka, in which he scored just 2.

His dominance with the bat hasn’t quite reached Watson levels, but scores of: 54, 58 and 30 have been vital in winning causes for the West Indies.

The biggest difference between Gayle, Watson and the rest has been the speed in which they have scored their runs. In his four innings this tournament Gayle has scored 144 runs at a strike rate of 158.24, while Watson has 242 runs at 154.14 in his five innings.

Gayle will look to hit Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and co from ball one – long, straight and far, bowl too straight at your peril. The big Jamaican favours hitting in the V, perhaps his favourite shots of them all are; the effortless six over long off or the carve through the covers off both front and back foot, Australian bowlers beware.

Standout performer…Shane Watson has claimed four man-of-the-match awards in five matches.

Watson, like Gayle, loves nothing more than smashing the ball into the bleachers. He thrives on anything short or even back of a length. Always quickly into position, his pull shots have been a joy to behold in this tournament, as both pace and spin has been deposited to the fence with minimum fuss, this is the way Watson bats.

His 70 against South Africa was particularly impressive, after losing partner David Warner early, Watto played out hostile spells from both Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel before taking the attack to the spinners.

If Watson outlasts the opening spells of Ravi Rampaul and Samuel Badree, then Sunil Narine will have to be at his very best or Watson could take the game away from an average West Indies bowling attack.

Gayle will look to do likewise. With the West Indies middle order currently being as unpredictable as the Sri Lankan monsoon season weather, it will be up to Gayle to go big and long. If he is there past the fifteenth over, then 200 would not be out of reach for the Windies.

This time tomorrow we will know who will play Sri Lanka in the World T20 final on Sunday, the questions remain though: will it be Chris’ West Indies or Shane’s Australia? Will either of the opening destroyers go big and pull out a match winning performance? Will both decide on a personal “boundary hitting duel.” The Gayle verses Watson show – has a ring to it, doesn’t it.

Should either perform to their very best, then there will be two winners tomorrow and cricket will be one of them.

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